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Life Without Buildings | Any Other City (Tugboat)
If you've heard any of their three singles so far then you basically know what to expect from Life Without Buildings. There's the wiry (and Wire-y) angular guitars and taught drums that recall any number of skeletal art-punk bands and ensure things remain ennervated. Undoubtedly the focus of the whole thing is the memorably petulant vocals of Sue Tompkins, compelling in their rambles, which continually wobble a line between whimsy and innanity. Throughout Any Other City her disjointed yelping repetitions zig-zag like a schizophrenic jazz vocaliser, while guitar, bass and drums take care of business. It's a non-linear, scattershot vocal style, like throwing a fistful of darts at a board in the assurance that some of them will stick, something will sink in. And sink in it does, as the passion and energy- if not necessarily always the songs themselves- becomes infectious. If an emotional nerve is only very occasionally hit, it's because this isn't the band's intention or purpose. Only with Sorrow, the seven minute song that closes the album, do the band deviate from the established Life Without Buildings textbook as Tompkins approaches what could be called an almost conventional singing style. Brazenly off-key, over a sleepy Coney Island Baby guitar, this singing quickly becomes a disjointed spoken narrative which sounds at least partially improvised and is in danger of coming crashing down at any moment. It never does, but ends as a triumphant tightrope walk of inspired semi-sensical rambling, recalling the cut-ups of Brion Gysin and the mellow raps of A Tribe Called Quest (really). It's a song that'll bring a smile as well as a furrowed brow, and if Life Without Buildings never do another thing it'll all have been worth it. A singular band with spunk to spare.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001